HARARE — Data released by the United Nations (UN) shows that Zimbabwe has the highest, if not the best, ratio of school books per student, a feat achieved despite incredible odds and often controversial methods used by private citizens to make sure children stay in school.

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Morgan High School pupils

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The dusty Hatcliffe Extension suburb boasts a controversial history. It’s at this place that thousands of families were forcibly relocated to during the 2005 urban clean up called Operation Murambatsvina.

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The plastic tents have made way to brick houses, children make their way to not-so ordinary schools.

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Dozens of unregistered schools have sprouted up to meet the needs of a minority group.

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Learners at these schools make up the 6% of primary school-goers, who haven’t been able to enrol in formal schools.

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Classes are held in two cramped neighbouring houses.

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A headmaster at one of the schools, Kurai Sikistano, says their main aim is to transform school kids who are from poor backgrounds, so that they have a better future.

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Authorities are trying to encourage the schools to register with the Education ministry.

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On the other hand, the United Nations says despite the social challenges caused by an economic crisis over the last decade, Zimbabwe has not only met the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)regarding access to primary education, but also remains Africa’s education flagship.

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According to UN resident co-ordinator, Bishow Parajuli in terms of enrolment, Zimbabwe boasts almost 95% and for text book availability, he thinks the country has the highest ratio in Africa.

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The UN attributes the achievement to significant government spending on education in the early years and aggressive overseas development aid in the latter years. Zimbabweans have also been commended for valuing education highly.

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Schools say in their small unrecognised way they too have contributed to the MDGs. They maintain that they have given parents an option and kept children in school, those who might otherwise have dropped out. – Sabc

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